Getting to it

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Change is easy. Results are hard.” -One of the many slogans from the Presidential Campaign of 2008


It‘s over ... FINALLY! Barack Obama is our 44th President and oh what a story. Though I pegged him to win it all back in this very space back on December 31, 2007 (just search my blog and see), I still can‘t believe he won - beating both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, two gigantic political stalwarts of our time. A first time senator from Illinois with minimal name recognition throws his hat into the ring and wins it all. Is this a great country or what?


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[Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America.]


But now the campaign hoopla is over; now it‘s time to get down to it. Though President Obama‘s inauguration is still three months away, we can‘t afford to wait - strategies need to be drawn up to address not only a host of current issues (the wreckage on Wall Street, the home mortgage meltdown) but many future ones as well (an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, energy security, the federal deficit).


Now comes the really hard part - making the tough choices change demands, so we as a nation can achieve results. This isn‘t going to be pretty, either - despite Democratic control of both the Executive Branch and Congress, I fully expect a tremendous amount of infighting to occur as we get down to the brass tacks.


Trucking is going to be largely on the back burner as the new Democratic administration gets rolling in 2009 - but don‘t you worry, this industry is going to feel a major impact from the many decisions that‘ll be made by the Obama White House in the months and years to come.


I don‘t for a moment pretend to know what‘s being discussed within Obama‘s inner circle in terms of policy initiatives - but I am going to take a stab at this anyway. We‘ll see for ourselves what‘s going to be pushed by his administration soon enough.


More alternative energy, far less pollution: This is a big one because Obama made specific commitments in this area in his campaign - proposing to invest $150 billion in renewable energy over the next 10 years, while requiring that 10% of the U.S.‘s energy come from renewable source by 2013. By 2020, Obama wants to reduce the nation‘s demand for electricity by 15% and also backs a “cap and trade” auction system to reduce the emissions of so-called greenhouse gases - reinvesting the money raised from such a system into further research and development of “green energy” technologies, especially solar- and wind-based power generation By 2050, Obama wants to reduce carbon emissions to a level 80% below where they were in 1990.


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Lower income taxes: This is a tough one to pull through on, simply because the federal deficit is poised to grow well beyond $11 trillion by next year - largely due to commitments made to shore up the U.S. financial sector ($700 billion is the initial outlay, not including the $123 billion lent to re-insurance giant AIG along with a $25 billion rescue package for U.S. automakers, among others). He says he wants to keep President Bush‘s tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 in place, while also lowering taxes for lower- and middle-income filers in the U.S. but that‘s simply impossible. I think he‘ll rescind the Bush tax cuts, defer his other promised tax breaks, and start raising more money by making wholesale changes to Social Security (raising the retirement age and cutting benefits - disallowing checks for those with substantial investment income) while gutting farm subsidies, reducing defense spending, and beefing up fees paid by corporations for a variety of things (FDIC fees paid by banks are already climbing).


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Higher fuel taxes: To boost his alternative energy plans, I believe Obama‘s administration is going to seriously increase gasoline and diesel taxes - making those fuels more expensive, thus giving alternatives such as biodiesel a more competitive edge. That‘ll also fatten federal and state coffers in lieu of tolls and highway privatization efforts.


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Boost infrastructure spending: Instead of more stimulus checks, I think Obama‘s administration will instead beef up highway and bridge construction efforts, along with expanding mass transit. That‘ll create jobs, address long-standing infrastructure needs, and help improve America‘s competitiveness in terms of attracting more manufacturing concerns from Europe and other places (even Asia). I‘m betting he‘ll move on that pretty quick.


Healthcare reform: A major theme of Obama‘s candidacy hinged on top-to-bottom reform of healthcare in the U.S. ... but he‘s been very vague about how he‘ll do it. He wants to build on the current employer-based healthcare system already in place -- forgoing a nationalized healthcare system proposed by Hillary Clinton in the primaries - but there‘s not much detail beyond that. There‘s the idea of a subsidy for low-income families that can‘t afford healthcare coverage, but it lacks specifics - as does his wish to make sure all children in the U.S, get healthcare coverage. How that‘ll be fleshed out remains to be seen.


Highway safety: Trucking comes into Obama‘s sights around 2010, when I believe things like mandating “Black Boxes” to automatically record hours of service (HOS) information as well as crash data (similar to what‘s found on commercial jetliners) get put on the table. A stake will be driven through the heart of the Mexican truck issue for good in the name of safety as well. But that won‘t come to the fore until current issues - such as the meltdowns in the financial sector meltdown and home mortgage market are addressed.


That‘s what I think we‘ll see from President Obama in the coming months. Whether any of these predictions become true, though, is anyone‘s guess.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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